Monday, August 8, 2011

ART & OBSESSION - Guest Post from author Brandi Lynn Ryder

Brandi Lynn Ryder signs her debut novel,
In Malice, Quite Close, at The Poisoned Pen
on August 9th at 7pm. (details here...) 
I suppose the obsession with art is really an obsession with illusion, with things that are not what they seem. Learning to read was, for me, magic. New worlds knit before my eyes. There was, all at once, not merely the door I could see and move through, but infinite doors in my mind… leading to infinite rooms, in which anything at all might take place.

People are sometimes surprised when I describe myself as a “visual writer” – since writing is of course not a visual but a conceptual art. And yet I see and hear what is happening as clearly as if I were in a theater and struggle to type fast enough to take it all down. We are visual creatures; even in unconsciousness we dream, and I think it’s the attempt to make sense of this enigma of seeing and being that leads us, always, to art.

Like my character Tristan Mourault, I was mesmerized by beauty— and by all the landmines that lay beneath that powerful word-- almost from infancy, yet my mania for the visual arts and painting, in particular, came in college. An inspired Art History course became something I was anxious to consume at 8:30 in the morning. (Combined with a commute that had me rising before dawn, those who know me well realize what a miracle this is…) But there I sat transfixed, reveling in it. I’d lived in books all my life, and here were pictures to accompany the story: a great saga of magic tricks and illusion, a visual history of human pathos and imagination.

Édouard Manet: A Bar at the Folies Bergère
I was particularly taken with the work of Édouard Manet, one of the first nineteenth-century painters to approach modern subjects. He not only engages one’s perception, he questions it. This is commonplace now— in a world of special effects and internet tricks and clever advertising—but in his time, it was audacious genius. In A Bar at the Folies Bergère, we have what appears at first glance to be a typical Parisian bar scene. Only, wait… the barmaid’s reflection in the mirror behind her is in the wrong place, and the man who stands before her in this trick mirror does not exist at all. Similarly, in his ingenuity, The Railway, where exactly is the railway? We see only a great puff of smoke beyond the bars of a gate that lie behind the woman and her child, yet cast their shadow upon the child’s dress. The woman’s gaze engages us directly and asks if we too see the illusion? If we, perhaps, are part of it? In Luncheon in the Grass, we have a pastoral picnic scene. A traditional, even derivative grouping of figures, yet the sole woman is inexplicably nude alongside two fully, formally dressed men. Her unflinching gaze meets ours and we cannot look away. Manet makes voyeurs of us all.

The MET in NYC (
If I am made giddy by Manet— admittedly, a very unwriterly state of being!— my first trip to the Met in New York City was much the same. I haunt museums and art galleries wherever I go, but this was an art lover’s nirvana. It was winter and New York was covered in snow; the cabdriver that foolhardily agreed to make the trip fishtailed all the way. After wandering room after room, like cells of the mind or a maze in a dream, I paused to gaze out the long wall of windows that gave onto Central Park. Huge flakes of snow fell impossibly slow upon urbanites donned in cross-country skies, tracing patterns in the snow as lovers etched their names in the snow-buried cars. I stood for a long moment, mesmerized by this peculiar performance art—a lovely reminder that life itself is art unfolding and even the greatest artists merely take a stab at the infinite riddle of which we all are a part.


On Brandi Lynn Ryder's In Malice, Quite Close: 

A haunting and sophisticated debut in which priceless art and unspeakable desires converge. 
French ex-pat Tristan Mourault is the wealthy, urbane heir to a world- renowned collection of art-and an insatiable voyeur enamored with Karen Miller, a fifteen-year-old girl from a working-class family in San Francisco. Deciding he must "rescue" Karen from her unhappy circumstances, Tristan kidnaps her and stages her death to mask his true crime. 
Years later, Karen is now "Gisele" and the pair lead an opulent life in idyllic and rarefied Devon, Washington. But when Nicola, Gisele's young daughter, stumbles upon a secret cache of paintings-all nudes of Gisele-Tristan's carefully constructed world begins to crumble. As Nicola grapples with the tragedy that follows, she crosses paths with Amanda Miller, who comes to Devon to investigate the portraits' uncanny resemblance to her long-lost sister. 
Set against a byzantine backdrop of greed, artifice, and dangerous manipulations, In Malice, Quite Close is an intoxicating debut that keeps its darkest secrets until the very last page.
", artistic...a page-turner." - Publishers Weekly

"A modern gothic that emits a creepy glow..." - Kirkus Reviews 

To find out more about author Brandi Lynn Ryder visit her website


  1. A literary page turner. Meaning that the characters have substance, yet its also got commercial qualities in that the story grabs you and doesn't let go. This will be one you will tell your friends about.

  2. Wow... I love this essay. Not only makes me want to read the book, it makes me want to take an art class!!